“City of Arts” About to “Sell Out” Local Art and Artists…

(c) Can Stock Photo / tana       40-foot mesh sculpture of a woman called Bliss Dance by artist Marco Cochrane on Treasure Island in San Francisco. Night viewers can alter lights with a phone app.


by Rick Boettger……..

The City Commission will decide at its next meeting on January 17th whether to exempt the new SPCA building on College Road from the requirement that they buy and display art.  Basically, the Art in Public Places Program has a noble goal: “To encourage the inclusion of works of art in public and private construction projects in order to expand citizens’ and visitors’ experience with visual art and enable them to better understand our community and their individual lives. By encouraging artists capable of creating works of art in public places, the Program shall strive to stimulate the vitality and economy of the city by enhancing the visual beauty of the city and contributing to making the city the ‘island of the arts.'” One percent of building costs [on all new building projects] must be spent on art approved by the Art in Public Places Board.

The SPCA applied for a waiver of this requirement, citing increased construction costs making art unaffordable.  A waiver is allowed for non-profits if they can show a “valid public purpose.” The AIPP Board, tasked with providing the City Commission with a recommendation, unanimously approved a partial waiver, cutting the non-profit’s obligation in half.  They also approved of the FKSPCA’s request to fulfill their partial duty by incorporating art from artists who are willing to work for FREE. 

This waiver of the AIPP 1% rule must be approved by the City Commission “on a case-by-case basis.” The problem is, the only “valid public purpose” cited in the resolution is “FKSPCA provides animal control duties for the City of Key West . . “

Well, by that standard, every nonprofit would qualify, because in order to gain nonprofit status, you must perform an “exempt” function, all of which serve a public purpose, mostly charitable and educational.   HERE IS a link to a list of the IRS examples. For our City not to statutorily exempt EVERY nonprofit from providing art, the law must mean that there is something special about a particular request. Sadly, the statute gives zero examples of any special public purpose beyond what every exempt organization already had to show in order to qualify as a 501c3 organization.

The FKSPCA is one of the richest local nonprofits.  If you exempt them, you should exempt all non-profits. I don’t think the nonprofit community wants to abandon its artists en masse.  Below is a plea from one of our most renowned local artists, John Martini:

“I am not sure why the SPCA did not ask the plumbers to donate their work to their project. Why is it that artists work is considered of less importance than the sheet-rock installer or the architect. Artists are called upon to donate work for auctions and events constantly. Sometimes it seems that artists are single handily supporting every nonprofit in town. And now we have a precedent that the very non-profits that are soliciting artists to donate to their cause will be able to ignore the same artists when it comes to AIPP. Art production is work and artists deserve to be paid just the same as anyone else. Key West calls itself the City of Arts, it sells Key West based on its art and culture and than sells the very same artists out. Stop selling Key West as a cultural destination if you cannot support the culture workers you are exploiting.”

Well said, John.  I agree completely, and beg the City Commissioners to deny this request.

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Rick Boettger
Rick Boettger had a Top Secret security clearance in the Army and studied nuclear chemistry at MIT and law at Yale before getting a PhD in business at Berkeley. He earned tenure as a business professor at TCU in Fort Worth before going to Moscow as a Fulbright Professor, writing a book on the economy, hosting a semi-national talk radio show, and retiring to Key West in 1996 at the age of 48. Since then he has worked part-time as a tax and financial advisor, and has been doing investigative journalism since he began at the Blue Paper in 2007​. He is very happily married to his superb copy-editor Cynthia Edwards, the former long-time PIO for the Key West Police Department.

12 thoughts on ““City of Arts” About to “Sell Out” Local Art and Artists…

  1. Rick, another question that begs the question is “What is art?” Didn’t the new H2O Suites hotel (at the corner of United and Simonton) receive over $300,000 in art credit for the waterfall feature they have on the facade of their building? Sure, it looks pretty, but is it art? It must be since the art commission approved it, but it looks more like an integral part of the building design that an architect included without intending it to be a separate piece of artwork. I’d like to know which “artist” designed that and which “artist” built it. Which “artist” received $300,000 upon its completion? Mu guess is the “artist” was more of an architect, and no artist whatsoever received a penny for that piece of “art.”

  2. Well said and brave of you, Rick and John Martini, to challenge the mighty local SPCA. I was at the city commission meeting where this first came up and was passed over by the mayor and commissioners, who had indicated they would vote for the waiver, but they hoped SPCA and Arts in Public Places could work out a settlement – all after commissioner Margaret Romero had said she was not comfortable with granting the waiver, because if it was given to SPCA, then how could the mayor and commissioners deny other local non-profits making the same waiver request? After also, Richard Talmage, speaking for Arts in Public Places, made a mockery of the entire proceeding, by saying SPCA had used local art in its fund raising promotions. And, $8 million, or so, SPCA is spending on the new homeless animals Taj Mahal, while the mayor and commissioners cant find $1 million, or so, for a decent homeless people shelter nearby. While a city dog part sits on top of African remains, which atrocity the blue paper exposed. Which, whether anyone living here accepts it, caused African shamans to steer Hurricane Irma straight at Key West, and only the fact that a homeless prophet named Kari Dantler lived here was Irma nudged slightly eastward by angels looking out for Dangler, for whom the city ought to roll out the red carpet, including paying her well for Key West being spared most of Irma’s fury, including renting her and apartment, utilities paid, for so long as she cares to live in Key West. She happens to be a cat lover. She happens to think she is a cat. By the way. She once caught scabies at the city’s homeless shelter, when she was a volunteer client collecting and washing the used sheets and towels. Scabies and other issues at the shelter also will be before the mayor and commissioners this coming Tuesday night.

    1. Sloan, thanks for reporting what Richard Talmadge and Margaret Romero said. Maybe there is hope at the Jan 17th Commission meeting….

      1. I read in the Key West Citizen this week where SPCA and AIPP agreed to cut the baby in half, which I imagine was wonderful news to the 7 electeds, as they could approve the settlement, instead of piss off half the voters, which ever way they decided it.

    2. Sloan, if African shamans sent Irma to Key West as punishment for a dog park, why did they choose 2017 instead of any of the dozens of earlier years that the dog park existed at that location? The only difference in 2017 is that The Blue Paper exposed that news. Wouldn’t it then follow that The Blue Paper is ultimately responsible for the hurricane and not the dog park by itself? That makes as much sense as a cat lady nudging the storm to the side.

  3. Here’s a follow-up on the “art” at the H20 suites. The “artwork” is attributed to an architect, a water designer and a glass design engineer. Do a search on the names: , , Peter Pike, Christopher Chris Roy and Chris L. Stutzki. I can’t find anywhere that attributes any artwork to them. They are an architect and two engineers. Using this logic, any building feature could be designated as “art.”


    1. Great research, Ben. The AIPP statute defines an artist:
      “Artist or professional artist means a practitioner in the arts generally recognized by critics and peers as a professional possessing serious intent and ability. Indications of a person’s status as a professional artist include, but are not limited to, income realized through the sole commission of artwork, frequent or consistent art exhibitions, placement of artwork in public institutions or museums, receipt of honors and awards, and training in the arts.”

      By your research, the professionals cited for H20 do not fit this definition. I take it you verified that the artists cited for the other beautiful (to my eye) works of art in the slide show you link to are indeed qualified artists under the statute. The slide show verifies the good purpose of providing beautiful art while supporting the artists who create it. FKSPCA should follow this fine law.

      1. Rick, I was only familiar with the H2O “art” so that is the only one I researched. By the way, isn’t the money intended to fund local artists? Notwithstanding these people not being artists. Chris L. Stutzki is apparently out of Milwaukee. There isn’t any reference to someone named “Christopher Chris Roy” anywhere and for any purpose other than in the AIPP notice and on the AIPP plaque. Finally, Peter Pike is an architect on on that art mecca also known as Big Coppitt. When I looked on his website at pikearchitects.com, I didn’t see a single reference to art.

        The bottom line is that the AIPP program is a government backed extortion scam. The H2O story is proof by itself. Some local investors saved $300k in AIPP costs through an architectural feature that was going to be built anyway.

        By the way, wouldn’t it be interesting if the owners of H2O are the same people who were behind the Caroline Street Partners, the White Street Partners and the United Street Partners?

        1. The Meisel family developed of the H20 hotel. If you recall the mega-yacht marina proposal by Spottswood-Meisel – same Meisel family. In 2014 they bought 3 hotels on Simonton St. – the Southwinds Motel, Spindrift Motel and Ocean Breeze Inn. I was on the Art in Public Places Board for several years, but not when the H20 architectural feature was approved as art, so I don’t know what kind of discussion took place by the current board. A fountain certainly can be art, such as the fountain at the police dept. I believe that was designed and created by Jay and the FKCC art dept. I personally would not consider the water wall at H20 art – my opinion. If you think the developers got away with eliminating spending 1% of the budget on art by incorporating an architectural feature they wanted – better pay attention when they demolish the other 2 mom & pop hotels they own and pull a similar trick. To developers such as this it is about upscale-boutique architecture that they can then charge the highest possible nightly rates – it’s all about the money. Key West is losing its character and charm at an alarming rate.

        2. Oddly and unfortunately, Ben, nowhere in the statute does an artist’s being local figure into the selection criteria. Along with the lack of defining “public interest,” this is a law that could be better written.

  4. Art is in the beholders view.
    Art to me is the older wood homes and things like the water fall at Dantes or the Curry Mansion at 511 Caroline. To me Wisteria island is art but not to my wife.
    Art does not need to cost thousands of tax payers money. Key West in it self is art.

    As far as how they vote we all know it is a game of staying office.

  5. As a member of the AIPP board, I was not in favor of the H2O project. I was amazed when after I said that it was an architectural detail , they tried to compare what they were doing to the Trevi Fountain in Rome…more than a bit of a stretch I would think. What came to pass has been called the “Southernmost Urinal” and not entirely what they described to the board in their proposal. I applaud John Martini and agree with him. Over my 30 years in business as Goldsmith Jewelers, I donated many thousands of dollars worth of art and jewelry to various organizations in the hope that I was both giving to worthy causes and that some of those people would return and make a purchase…they rarely did.

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